6 Surprising Ways to Get Happy

Turning around a bad mood can be easier than you think. Check out these simple – even odd -- tips to enhance your happiness.

Medically reviewed in July 2021

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Happiness can mean different things to different people, and how we achieve it varies all across the board. While research shows that nurturing close relationships and taking care of your health can bring you happiness in the long run, there are lots of little things you can do to find that feel-good feeling right now. Check out these simple ways to put a smile on your face.

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1. Tell the Truth
Tempted to tell a little white lie? If so, you’re not alone: On average Americans tell about 11 lies per week. But you may want to resist that urge to fib if you want to live a happier and healthier life. In a 2012 University of Notre Dame study, researchers gauged lying over a 10-week period between two groups of participants, half of whom were told to lie less. In the end the no-lie group reported fewer physical ailments, such as headaches and sore throats, and mental health issues, such as tension. Not surprisingly, keeping it real was also connected to improved relationships. And that’s the truth. 
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2. Do the Dishes -- Together

Sharing is Caring® – and that can be especially true when it comes to divvying up the workload in a marriage. But that doesn’t mean chores need to be divided equally, according to findings from a 2013 study at the University of Missouri. The study suggests that the key to marital bliss – at least where housework is concerned -- is having both partners on board, no matter how the responsibilities are split.  Wives reported feeling an even stronger connection with their spouses when dads were actively involved with raising the kids, too.

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3. Celebrate Every Birthday

Do you buy into the idea that the younger you are, the happier you are? Surprisingly, the opposite may be true. In a study called “Profiling Happy,” 262,000 Americans were polled by CivicScience, a polling and consumer insights company. Starting with people in their early thirties, greater happiness was reported in each progressive age group. Other studies have found a U-shaped curve, where happiness declines starting in the 20s or 30s, hits a low point in middle age, then increases after that. Either way, the happiest campers tend to be those age 60 and up.

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4. Give Facebook a Rest
Yes, Facebook keeps you up-to-date about your friends’ overachieving kids -- but that may be a problem when it comes to your own happiness. In a 2013 study at the University of Michigan, researchers sent text messages to participants five times a day, asking questions about their overall emotional well-being. The results? More Facebook time meant less happiness. Experts have speculated that knowing what others are doing can spur less sunny comparisons to your own life. While other studies have shown that emotions – both happy and sad -- can be “contagious” on Facebook, it’s not a bad idea to focus on your own bliss and skip the updates. 
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5. Pedal to Work

It’s not just the length of your commute that puts a smile or frown on your face -- it’s how you get to work. Researchers at Clemson University reviewed data from the American Time Use Survey to see how your commute can affect your mood. Those who biked to work were the happiest, followed by car passengers and drivers. Bus and train riders were the least thrilled about their to and fro experience. Bike riders may take the gold, researchers say, simply because they enjoy cycling. Exercise also releases endorphins, the brain chemicals that help relieve stress and block pain. If your route to work is a smooth one, you may want to try a new kind of ride. 

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6. Smell the Sweat

There are lots of ways we show that we’re happy: smiles, laughter, spontaneous hugs – but sweat? Strangely enough, yes. While it’s been known that sweat can produce odors tied to negative emotions, it hasn’t been clear if the same could be said for positive feelings. In a small 2015 study researchers at Utrecht University asked female participants to smell a sweat sample from men who had experienced a feeling of fear, happiness or neutrality. Not only could the women distinguish between the emotions – the smells were contagious. The next time you get a whiff of someone’s body odor – it may boost your mood.

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